On any given day, there are nearly 428,000 children in foster care across the U.S. In the greater Philadelphia area, there are approximately 6,500 children and young adults in foster care, according to the Children’s Bureau.
The role of foster care
The reasons children enter the foster care system vary. Children may be removed from their biological families because of abuse or neglect, or they may have been diagnosed with an emotional, behavioral or cognitive disability (or other challenge) that their family is not equipped to handle.
Foster care is intended to provide children and young adults with an opportunity to be part of a stable, supportive and nurturing family – and a positive home environment – to help them reach their unique potential.
Facing challenges, finding stability
Children in foster care may face challenges with normalcy, academic achievement and socialization. Traumatic experiences that occur within a family or a neighborhood can contribute to the interruption of a child’s development. In addition, the disruptive and uncertain transition into foster care can create additional obstacles, such as: self-esteem issues, connecting with foster parents (if they have been in multiple foster homes), reconnecting with biological siblings and/or parents, and simply understanding what’s happening and why.
To help these children heal and grow – as they enter the foster care system – the goal is to find a consistent, highly-supervised and attentive home environment that will enable them to learn the skills and behaviors needed to succeed at home, in school and in the future.
Social service agencies and other groups – including Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health – work with these children and adolescents to: understand their needs and place them with foster families who will support their growth and well-being until they can be reunited with their families, placed with other relatives or adopted.
Enriching the lives of all involved
Together, with social service and child welfare agencies, behavioral health organizations, and a variety of support services, foster parents can help children improve their behaviors, resilience and self-esteem. Foster parents also are able to teach important life skills such as how to overcome challenges and build positive relationships, while providing stability – which is crucial to a child’s physical, emotional and cognitive development.
Ultimately, children who spend time with supportive and loving foster families have a better chance of excelling in school, in relationships and in life. We also know youth aren’t the only ones who can benefit from foster care – it can enrich the lives of all those involved. Nothing demonstrates this better than a story from a Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health foster parent. Recently, as a mother helped her foster daughter prepare for prom, she noticed her daughter had a huge smile on her face.
The foster mom asked: “What are you laughing for?”
Daughter: “I’m not laughing, Mom. I’m smiling.”
Mom: “Are you nervous?”
Daughter: “I’m just very grateful to have you in my life.”
Mom’s response, “I feel the same way you do.”
Foster care truly has the ability to inspire and transform lives. To learn more about foster care programs and services, or to become a foster parent, explore the resources listed below:
- The Children’s Bureau
- National Foster Parents Association
- Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health Child Welfare/Foster Care Services
- Pennsylvania State Resource Family Association